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August 11, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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I Just Didn’t Do It

Directed by Maeyuki Suo

The closing shot, of the Supreme Court of Japan, leaves you with no mistake: I Just Didn’t Do It is a political drama. Which may limit its target audience a bit.

If you’re not Japanese or a law student, you might not get much out of this. If you are, or just care sufficiently about injustice, I Just Didn’t Do It is a very more appropriate adjective film.

I Just Didn’t Do It chronicles one man’s struggle against the towering monolith that is the Japanese legal system. In the Japanese criminal courts, 99.9% of all cases tried result in convictions; a figure quoted extensively throughout the film. “A criminal record is more common than you think,” it is explained. However, the figure’s not as bad as it seems… According to one character, maybe three out of 100 defended cases result in acquittals. The film makes a nod towards the old comedy of errors films, but without the comedy. The holding cells depicted highlight Japanese efficiency: they are absolutely tiny and very very clean, with things like ablutions running like clockwork.

I Just Didn’t Do It is filled with a series of oh-no-they-didn’t headshake-inducing scenes. For example, in a triumph of legalese, the law relating to ‘groping’ is revealed to be divided into two categories: public nuisance and coercive indecency. Which is which depends on whether the offender’s hand is inside the victim’s panties or outside. Or the first interview with the assistant DA, where the open question “Tell me about that day,” produces the response “Shut up! Noone asked you that!” when the accused proceeds to do exactly what he was asked. Or even the accused’s first lawyer refers to him as a ‘culprit’ rather than a ‘defendant’.

I Just Didn’t Do It does not hold back. It illustrates the extent to which the presumption of innocent until proven guilty is no more than a myth in Japan. The accused’s possession of pornography is used as evidence of the alleged groping incident, and almost every character mentions the necessity of proof that the accused did not commit the crime. Simply putting the prosecution to task for lack of evidence is not a viable possibility.

Essentially, there is nothing else to I Just Didn’t Do It than a message. The message is: Japan is badly in need of legal reform. If the message is unlikely to appeal to you, the film will probably not either. But if it does, it is difficult to see how a more accessible and persuasive argument for it could be made.

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